Verana Grant Johnson recalls the day she and
her mother served dinner to the neighbors who had come to help build a barn on their
farm. Preparing meals was one of the many chores Verana and her siblings were expected
to do. We had to work hard and I think we instilled that in our children too. They all
know how to work. I don’t begrudge it at all because Mother and Dad were good to us, but
they were strict and we had to work. We had to do our chores, which was good. Beyond the
smiles and determined faces, though, Pete’s photos revealed a vulnerability rooted in
hard times. What little security families had could be wiped out by an epidemic in their
livestock or a complete crop failure. They knew the Depression meant tough times, but
then again, tough times were all many had really ever known. I remember my father telling
my mother in the fall of ’36 that we had $100 to get through the winter and put the crop
in. We didn’t buy a lot of inputs then. We didn’t buy a lot of food, but they made it.
You kind of think back and wonder how they managed to have enough vision, enough courage
to get through those times. It was tough and had been for a number of years. Many point
out they didn’t realize they were doing without simply because they had always done without.
Even if they had felt a sense of urgency, looking for help from outside the farm was
anything but second nature. After all, farms then were by and large self-sufficient. If
families could grow their own fruits and vegetables and raise their own meat and plow their own
fields, they could come up with homegrown solutions to Depression dilemmas too. There
was pride in handling one’s own affairs.